“The Secret is a fantastic book. You should read it. It’ll change everything about how you think.”
I was chatting in a conference room filled with excited women and a handful of men after a presentation where we were told we can live our dream life. All we had to do was sell beauty products. Even though I wasn’t big on beauty products – even though these ones were designed to be healthy for you – I did like the prospect of money and living on my own terms.
Adrenaline was pumping through me and throughout that entire time, I got all kinds of advice, a bit of guidance and engaging conversations. I nodded when I was told about this book “The Secret” and thought about picking up that book.
After all, I’m a network marketer after all. I should be investing in myself right?
I never went and bought the book.
To this day I have yet to get myself a copy of it either. And I’m so happy that I didn’t.
After spending years pursuing my career in writing and researching in the self-improvement world I can say this with confidence:
I hate The Secret. It’s a terrible book that is more damaging than it is helpful to this industry. The Secret will ultimately destroy one’s life should they apply these lessons in a serious way.
It’s a book that won’t work for me and certainly won’t for you.
Here is why.
It Focuses On Hyper Selfishness
My first issue is that the book takes a hard line on being selfish to a high degree. To understand this, it’s important to know what this book is all about.
The main focus of this book is about the concept of the Law of Attraction. The Law dictates that:
Both positive and negative thoughts bring positive and negative experiences in your life.
Think of it like karma except this is entirely your own self doing it.
This kind of mysticism is part of the self-improvement world as the scientific community chalks this phenomenon as pseudoscience. Still, it didn’t stop people over the years talking about this great power and many authors simply brought it up.
They didn’t try to explain why it worked.
That is until Rhonda Byrne wrote this book and blew the concept out of proportion.
While the law itself is a feel good feeling at first, Byrne decided to describe this concept as “The Universe”. As if it was a guiding hand – similar to how those of faith believe in a higher being – to everything in your life.
Byrne goes into extensive details about it and how you can tap into it and how it can apply to every aspect of your life.
If you’re in debt, you’ll only drive yourself further into it if your mind is set to having a lack of money. But as soon as you change your mindset to attracting wealth, money will start coming to you in droves.
While I’m all for believing in people and encouraging them, this way of thinking is dangerous.
Part of that reason is due to it delving into hyper selfishness to the point of narcissism.
You can already see that from some of the various quotes that Byrne stands behind:
“The power to everything you want is inside you.”Rhonda Byrne, The Secret
“A shortcut to manifesting your desires is to see what you want as absolute fact.”Rhonda Byrne, The Secret
“The universe will start to rearrange itself to make it happen to you.”Rhonda Byrne, The Secret
From these quotes it’s clear what her message is all about: if you want good things to be happening to you, all you’ve got to do is have thoughts that align with those thoughts.
This is nothing short of thinking selfishly.
And Byrne does have a point to it. In order to achieve success, you will have to be looking out for yourself. You’re going to need money in order to survive and so you work so you can get paid. But the more you delve into the book, the more Byrne’s logic goes beyond that.
Even though I haven’t read the book, just by looking at the quotes alone, I’d argue that it’s encouraging readers to indulge in narcissism. It encourages one to think of only themselves and to neglect those around them – unless of course helping them is to your own benefit.
And this makes more sense when you look at the arguments made by many other notable people who are against this book.
The Secret Works In A Vacuum
Another reason that The Secret isn’t going to work for me is that it works in a vacuum. While I won’t deny that it doesn’t work at all, prolonged practice of the lessons this book is trying to pass is problematic.
It plays on the aspect of selfishness and drives that point with two other aspects: delusional positivity and confirmation bias.
These two points were also brought up in Mark Manson’s piece outlining why The Secret is terrible.
Confirmation Bias In The Secret
Confirmation bias is a well-studied concept that has been studied for decades. It’s the psychological process of us always choosing to pay attention to something that we’re choosing. How we choose those things is based on our own preexisting thoughts and beliefs. The reason we do this is because it’s biologically economical and efficient.
For example, think of a friend you had a falling out with. Before that event, things felt good and there was nothing wrong at all. But as soon as you stop chatting and hanging out and you look back at the time spent together, you’ll notice things. Warnings everywhere that this person is a terrible friend.
Another example is say you’re looking to date someone – whether it’s a fling or a serious relationship it doesn’t matter. Next thing you know, you’ve installed Tinder, Bumble, eHarmony, Plenty of Fish amongst many other dating sites and apps. You’ll start sizing up folks you see without thinking much of it either. Before hand these things seemed like the last things you’d do.
What The Secret is saying is since we all have this bias, why not use this bias to our advantage in other aspects of life? It argues that if you’re only thinking positive thoughts, you’ll notice little things in your experiences that will confirm those beliefs. Merely thinking about them is enough to confirm that these are true.
And while there is truth to that Byrne is supercharging this concept. Instead of experiencing this on a regular basis, we should be experiencing this all the time in order to leverage the most from The Universe.
And if you think that’s bull, Byrne expressively states that in the book:
You can create anything you want, but to do that you must follow the principles of the law [of attraction]. Eliminate all doubt and replace it with the full expectation that you will receive what you are asking for. If you are not receiving what you are asking for, it is not the law that has failed. It means that your doubt is greater than your faith.Rhonda Byrne, The Secret
Delusional Positivity In The Secret
The other concept is delusional positivity – or toxic positivity – which The Secret worships if you couldn’t tell from the quote. The idea follows that negativity or any negative emotion doesn’t – or shouldn’t – exist within you.
It’s a silly concept because over the years I’ve been writing on self-improvement, I’ve come to terms with negative emotions. I thought they were bad things, but in reality they are very helpful.
Anger can spark positive change.
There is also the fact I found a career I love by failing to pursue another career.
But through my writing career, I’ve realized how too much of a good thing can be bad for you. Research shows that when we try to suppress something, that emotion will be harder to resist later on. Eventually it’s going to pop and it’ll be harder to suppress.
By extension of that, our natural psychosis encourages us to do things that we expressively tell ourselves not to do. Even if someone else is directing it too. If you tell yourself to never doubt yourself, you will eventually doubt yourself on something.
Another study also looked into the fact that thinking positively about the future diminishes your results short-term. The study found that if you are positive about a test or getting a promotion, that you won’t put in as much effort as if you were neutral about it.
This isn’t to say to be doubting and being negative about your skills. But the thought that you’ll succeed and be positive no matter what can undermine your ability to succeed in everything you do.
Why These Two Don’t Mix Well
Alone, these concepts are not good for you or your mentality, but trying to mash these two together will only be more damaging than you can imagine.
Not only are you using confirmation bias to focus on the good in life, but that this is your creed moving forward. You are to think only in positives. Have no room for doubt. View obstacles as stepping stones and should pose no consequences at all.
As appealing as a world that may be, it’s not realistic. It’s not part of reality and these two concepts clash with each other. They mess up your own way of thinking.
Take this pandemic for an example. For months on end, many politicians in America dismissed the pandemic. Donald Trump even proclaimed that it would all blow away when the temperature warmed up in the spring.
He professed that for months, even as cases rose and thousands were dying every day and America was breaking world records for COVID deaths.
Politics aside, this is textbook practice of The Secret’s teachings.
And guess what? Deaths still rose, states are still closed and cases are still rising. The Secret didn’t work.
Instead of putting together a proper plan to deal with the pandemic, Trump relied on the Law of Attraction – amongst other tactics – to save him. He willed COVID to go away and this virus has gone to infect thousands at a time.
Another case you can look at is network marketing itself. Many companies sell the huge dream to you hard to get you excited. And in some cases, they stress how easy it all seems to climb up the ladder and get into those dream positions you have in your mind.
You’ll have a bias to join in those cases, but once you look at it further you realize you’ve been duped. Not only do these things not come easily, but you’ve also got to work hard in getting a lot of sales and people underneath you to make it all work. And that’s if you’re dealing with a legitimate network marketing company.
While each of these have varying levels of ramifications, you start to see how dangerous that way of thinking is once it starts failing. And there is further danger from this due to it playing to people’s selfish desires. In that mindset it allows the person to lay the blame on something else.
I didn’t have the right frequency.
I wasn’t thinking positive enough.
Or maybe my cosmic universal wiring is messed up.
I’d say it simply doesn’t work.
The Secret Will Never Work In A Realistic Setting
The Secret is not the first kind of book to capitalize on what it’s selling. There have been other ambitious books that came out at key moments in the past. While each of those books in the past held some water, The Secret doesn’t offer anything new or practical at all.
It’s an emphasis on the same concepts that have been iterated before, tweaked to appeal to a specific group of people. In the case of The Secret, it’s geared to appeal to millennials who are generally self centered individuals due to social media and technology.
The ideas of delusional positivity and selfish thinking appeal to us millennials as many think we’ve been wronged by our circumstances and think we deserve more. I agree that we do deserve more, but willfully thinking of things to come into our lives isn’t the answer.
And I know that my thoughts on this book won’t sit well with people. After all, this book is widely popular that many people can relate to the quote I mentioned above. Someone somewhere has told you about this book. Whether as a passing comment or you’ve picked up a copy already.
Or maybe you’re like me where my parents gave me a daily teachings of The Secret for Christmas some time ago rather than the actual book.
They’ll staunchly defend this book saying that’s not what Byrne meant. In that case it raises more questions:
What did she mean?
Why didn’t she write this in a clearer way?
People have their own interpretations of this book. Some will see it as a great book while I consider it one of the worse books out there. The core lesson of this book is “Think positively and everything will be better.”
Well Rhonda Byrne, I’ve been a positive thinker for years before writing and let me tell you, my life hasn’t amounted to much. The reason for that is I’ve been thinking so damn hard about doing things or being positive that I’ve failed to take action.
The only times my life has changed were the times I went out and did something. I suggest you do the same.
To your growth!
Eric S Burdon